Start this overnight pumpkin French toast casserole ahead of time so you can wake up and bake a deliciously spiced fall breakfast or brunch.
- 1 (12-14 ounce) loaf french bread, sourdough bread, or challah*
- 1 cup (227g) pumpkin puree
- 3/4 cup (150g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons store-bought or homemade pumpkin pie spice*
- 6 large eggs
- 2 and 1/3 cups (560ml) whole milk
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup (69g) packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup (41g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 Tablespoons (86g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 3/4 cup (100g) roughly chopped pecans*
- for serving: pure maple syrup
- Slice and cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Let the cubed bread sit out uncovered for a few hours or up to 1 day. (If you don’t have enough time, see Bread note below.)
- Grease a 9×13 inch (or any 3.5-4 quart) baking dish or spray with nonstick spray. Spread cubes of bread in the dish.
- Whisk pumpkin, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract together in a large bowl. Pour evenly over bread.
- Cover the pan tightly and place in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours and up to 1 day. This gives the bread a chance to soak up the pumpkin custard and is a key step in this recipe.
- Make and refrigerate the crumb topping too: Mix the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon together. Add the cold butter and using a pastry cutter or fork, cut butter into the brown sugar mixture until pea-size crumbles form. You can also use your hands to mix it together. Stir in the pecans. Cover and refrigerate (separately, do not add to soaking casserole) until ready to use in step 7. Can be refrigerated for just 15 minutes or up to 1 day. The colder it is, the less likely it will sink down and get lost in the casserole.
- Remove casserole the refrigerator and preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Sprinkle crumb topping evenly over casserole and bake uncovered for 20 minutes, and then cover with aluminum foil and bake for an additional 25-35 minutes or until center appears set and is no longer runny. The total time this casserole takes is 45-55 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving. Casserole deflates slightly as it cools. Feel free to drizzle maple syrup on top of entire casserole or on individual servings.
- Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
- Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: You can prepare the casserole up to 1 day in advance before adding the crumb topping, see step 4. You can prepare the crumb topping separately 1 day in advance, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator. Sprinkle over the soaked bread right before baking. For freezing, prepare the recipe through step 3 and freeze for up to 2 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, make the crumb topping, sprinkle on top, and then bake the casserole as instructed. You can also freeze the leftover baked and cooled casserole for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat to your liking in the microwave or cover and bake in a 300°F (149°C) until warm throughout, at least 20 minutes.
- Bread: Crusty, somewhat stale bread is best for French toast casseroles. When all is cut into cubes, you’ll have around 12 cups (slightly more or less is fine). If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to let the bread sit out as instructed in step 1, spread the cubes in a single layer on baking sheet and bake in a 300°F (149°C) oven for 10 minutes.
- Pumpkin Pie Spice: You can find pumpkin pie spice in the baking aisle of most grocery stores or make your own homemade pumpkin pie spice. If you don’t have either and want to use individual spices, use 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each ground cloves and ground allspice. You also need cinnamon for the topping.
- Milk: Whole milk is best because it produces a rich casserole that isn’t too heavy. You can use lower fat or nondairy milks in a pinch. Half-and-half could work, but casserole will be quite heavy.
- Slow Cooker: Keep in mind that when cooked in the slow cooker, the casserole doesn’t have quite as much texture compared to baking in the oven. Step 1 is especially important if you are using the slow cooker. Instructions: Follow step 1. In step 2, grease your slow cooker insert and spread cubes of bread inside. Follow steps 3, 4, and 5. Let slow cooker insert completely come to room temperature, and then sprinkle crumb topping over soaked bread. Place slow cooker insert into the base, cover with lid, and cook on high for 2.5-3.5 hours, or on low for 4-5 hours. Casserole is done when center appears set and is no longer runny.
- Individual Cups/Muffin Pan: We haven’t tested this option, but let us know if you try it!
- Half Recipe: This recipe can easily be halved in a 9-inch square baking pan. The total bake time will be shorter, around 30-35 minutes. Cover with aluminum foil after 15 minutes of baking.
- Nut Free: Leave out the pecans if needed.
- Cream Cheese Version: Follow step 1 above. Beat 8 ounces (224g) brick-style cream cheese that’s softened to room temperature, 2 Tablespoons (15g) confectioners’ sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract together until smooth. In step 2, layer half of the bread into greased casserole dish. Drop spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture all over the bread. Top with remaining bread. Continue with step 3 above.
Keywords: pumpkin french toast casserole